Thursday, July 24, 2014

50 Years After Rochester, NY Riots, What's Really Changed? Nothing.

An African-American man is beaten by
Rochester, NY Police officers
during the 1964 riot.
By Davy V.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 riots in Rochester, NY.

It was in the early evening hours of Friday July 24, 1964 when Rochester Police arrested a 19-year old African-American man at a neighborhood block party.

The riot, which lasted three days, was fueled by growing tensions in the African-American community, such as police brutality (Rochester, NY Police would regularly beat blacks), public housing (Rochester, NY was the last city in New York State to implement public housing programs), and low income jobs (pretty much the only jobs available to African-Americans).

An African-American man is beaten by
New York State Troopers
during the 1964 riot.
As the riot escalated, New York State Governor Nelson Rockerfeller called out the National Guard.

The move on Rockefeller's part, would mark the first time in history where national guard troops had ever been deployed to a northern city. 

When it was all over, there were many injuries, including a Rochester Police officer who lost an eye after he was hit by a bottle, an ABC News reporter who was shot in the face, and a total of four dead, three of whom died when a helicopter conducting surveillance of the riots, crashed and burned.

Almost 1,000 people were arrested, and more than 200 stores and businesses were left looted and damaged.

So what has changed in 50 years?

Let's see.


So, 50 years later, how is the community relations between the Rochester, NY Police department and the African-American community? 

Over the last 5 decades the Rochester, NY Police department's mistreatment of African-Americans has continued to increase, each year, worse than the previous.

In fact, the Rochester, NY Police department has a long history of abusing, and killing African-Americans.

One name that brings back horrible memories of abuse and brutality is Rochester Police detective William Mahoney.

Mahoney's nickname was "Backroom Bill", because of what he would do to suspects in the RPD's interrogation rooms.

William "Backroom Bill" Mahoney was known for beating suspects, forcing them to sign false confessions.

One of Backroom Bill's favorite torture beating tactics was to tape a phone book around a suspect's midsection using electrical tape.

Rochester Police detective William Mahoney would then strike suspects with billy clubs, and his fists, making sure to hit the phone book, so as to not leave any signs of trauma which could be easily identified as having come from a vicious beating.

One high profile case in which Mahoney was involved was that of Rochester resident Betty Tyson.

Tyson, a prostitute, was arrested by Rochester Police as a suspect in the 1974 murder of Timothy Haworth, a Philadelphia traveling businessman in town on business with Kodak, who went out at night looking for a prostitute, and was murdered.

Haworth's body was found in an alley.

Back at Rochester Police headquarters, William "Backroom Bill" Mahoney beat Tyson, and after hours of an exhausting, brutality filled interrogation, forced Tyson into signing a false confession.

Betty Tyson was sentenced to 25 years to life, and was finally released after her conviction was overturned, but not before spending 25 years in prison.

Mahoney was later convicted in Federal court of conspiracy, involving a different case.

In the years that would follow, the Rochester, NY Police department would continue a busing and killing African-Americans.

On November 11, 1975, 18 year old Denise Hawkins was running from her abusive boyfriend down a Rochester, NY street when Rochester, NY Police officer named Michael Leach shot her dead.

Leach, the son of former Rochester, NY Police Chief Delmar Leach, stated that Hawkins had a knife in her hand.

Denise Hawkins' death was met with an outcry for justice from the community in Rochester, NY for several reasons.

First, because she was an African American shot by a white police officer.

Second, because she was a woman.

Despite demands from community activists in Rochester, such as the late Rev. Raymond Graves, Rochester Police officer Michael Leach was cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of Denise Hawkins, and her killing was found to be justified.

Leach, who would rise to the rank of Captain, later murdered his own, shooting him in the back.

More innocent African-Americans would later be murdered by trigger-happy, white, Rochester Police officers.

Alicia McCuller, Calvin Greene, Vandy Davis, Vandy Davis, Craig Heard, and Izzy Andino, are just some of the innocent lives taken by Rochester, NY cops.

In the case of Alicia McCuller, she was shot by Rochester Police officer Thomas L. Whitmore, and as she lay dying on the ground, gasping for air, officer Whitmore stood over her, and shot her a second time.

Calvin Greene, a mentally-ill father, was unarmed, when Rochester Police officer Gary E. Smith shot him a total of three times, killing him instantly,

Vandy Davis had gone to get furniture when he was shot and killed by Rochester, NY Police officer David Gebhardt.

Officer Gebhardt claimed that as he was entering the apartment on a drug raid, he accidentally tripped on an extension cord, and as a resume discharged his shotgun which hit Vandy Davis in the chest, killing him instantly.

Craig Heard was a 14-year old Honor Roll student who like many teenagers, made a bad decision in the company he kept.

As a result, Craig Heard took a stolen car, which a friend had stolen earlier, for a joyride on the morning of June 10, 2002.

Cornered by Rochester Police in a dead end street, a frightened, unarmed Craig Heard was executed by Rochester Police officers Hector Padgham and Serge Savitcheff, who shot young Craig twice in the head.

Izzy Andino, a mentally ill young Latino man was executed by 7 Rochester, NY Police officers on June 21, 20012, in what neighbors described as a modern day firing squad.

Andino, who was despondent and had gotten into an argument with his mother, was shot at least 12 times.

His body was left uncovered for hours on a sidewalk, while Rochester cops cracked jokes about his death.

These are just a few of tne senseless murders mintoties by tne Rochester, NY Police departnent.

In addition, in more recent years, citizens armed with video cameras and cellphones have captured disturbing videos showing Rochester, NY Police officers abusing, beating and violating citizens' civil rights.

On May 12, 2011, Emily Good was arrested by Rochester, NY Police officer Mario Masic after Good videotaped Masic and other Rochester Police officers conducting a racially profiled traffic stop of an African-American motorist.

Good's charges were later dismissed.

The video of Good's arrest went viral and put not only the Rochester, NY Police department, and the City of Rochester under an international spotlight, but also brought under a spotlight citizens' first amendment right to photograph and video record police officers.

Another disturbing video (posted below) which once again captured Rochester Police officers abusing African-Americans was that of Benny Warr, a disabled, one-legged amputee who was lifted, and thrown off his motorized wheelchair, pepper sprayed, beaten and falsely arrested by Rochester, NY Police officers Anthony Liberatore, Joseph Ferrigno, and Mitchell Stewart, while waiting for a bus.

Benny Warr,
beaten by Rochester, NY Police officers
while waiting for bus.

And even more recently, in a case which was featured on CNN News, Rochester, NY Police officer Eliud Rodriguez racially profiled, and arrested three African-American teenagers, and high school basketball players who were waiting for a bus.

And when it comes to police racial profiling, abuse, and murders of innocent African-Americans and Latinos, NOTHING will ever change until those in positions of authority force that change.

Take, for example, Rochester, NY Mayor Lovely Warren.

Before she was Mayor, when she was elected to Rochester City Council in 2007, and then as President ob 2010, Lovely Warren has always been opposed to the 50-plus year call for a true Civilian Review Board (CRB), one with subpoena power, to oversee and investigate incidents of abuse and civil rights violations on behalf of Rochester, NY Police officers.

As Mayor, Lovely Warren continues to oppose a true CRB, instead choosing to continue a joke, which is the Center for Dispute Settlement, a City of Rochester funded agency (CONFLICT OF INTEREST?), which "investigates" allegations of police misconduct, then "presents" their "recommendation" to none other than the Rochester Police Chief himself, where then the Chief, and NO ONE ELSE, has complete control of any action.

The result?

A roundabout way to get to the same end result.


What about low income families?

Well, Rochester, NY was recently named the Third Poorest City in the U.S.

The child poverty rate in the U.S. is 20 percent.

That means that across the U.S., 1 out of every 5 children under the age of 18 lives in poverty.

In Rochester, NY, the child poverty rate is 46 percent.

That's more than twice the national average.

Every day, thousands of low-income families, with young children, a strong concentration of which are African-American, struggle to put food on the table.

For many young children in Rochester, NY, dinner consists of a pack of high sodium, Ramen noodle soup.

Rochester's high school graduation and drop out rate is one of the worst in the country, teen pregnancy among African-American girls, remains at an alarming rate, giving an all new meaning to the term, "Babies having babies."


Seems to me that not only do the same issues, such as police race relations and poverty, which served as the catalyst for the July '64 riots, not only still exist, but are actually worse.

Frankly, I'm surprised there hasn't been another riot.

But it will happen again, no doubt.

So what's really changed in Rochester, NY over the last 50 years?


I wonder what Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, great civil rights leaders who are both buried in Rochester's Mt. Hope Cemetery, would say.

Click Play to watch video of Rochester, NY Police officer Mario Masic violating Emily Good's first amendment right to record police.

Click Play to watch video of Benny Warr being beaten by Rochester, NY Police officers Anthony Liberatore, Joseph Ferrigno, and Mitchell Stewart.

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